All month long, Dunn Lumber's Jim Coshow and Todd Dermody will be offering insight and resources to help you build the best deck for your home. Check out Part 2: Choosing a Deck Surface, Part 3: Building, and Part 4: Maintaining.

There are a lot of things to consider before you get started on your decking project. Taking the time to think through the appearance and functionality of your deck will help you get the most out of your outdoor living space for years to come. 

Gather Inspiration

Before you start drawing out plans, take some time to gather information from a site such as the Trex company's Inspiration page, where you can find images to help start envisioning the type of deck surface, color, railing system, and lighting you’d like for your home. It's always a good idea to share images or other ideas with your contractor (or a Dunn Lumber deck specialist) as you're gathering inspiration for your deck project. 

Consider These Questions

Here are some questions to ask yourself before undertaking a decking project, which will help determine the size, scope, materials, and cost of creating a beautiful, useful outdoor living space. 

How are you going to use your deck?

Is it a place to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine? Will you be doing some barbecuing and entertaining at night? Forecasting the use of your deck will help you determine its size, seating requirements*, and whether electricity or natural gas will be needed for outdoor lighting or heating. 

*If you envision a patio table and chairs on your deck, that often requires a 12' x 12' space of its own. 

Who will be using your deck? 

Does it need to be a contained area where children and pets can play? A railing system will help keep your loved ones safe while providing peace of mind. Learn how to install an Azek TimberTech railing system on your deck. 

How will you access your deck? 

Give this a lot of thought. Adding a stairway that connects an upper-level deck to your dining room or bedroom creates easy access to that level of your home, but also adds additional expense. Don't forget to include stairways and gates in your deck plan. 

Will you use your deck all year? 

It's good to consider how you'll keep an all-seasons deck dry during the Pacific Northwest's rainy season. Skylift Roof Riser hardware allows you to more easily create a roof cover for your outdoor living space, producing lots of natural light, airflow, and unobstructed views from adjacent rooms. The area under your deck can be used for dry storage, an entertainment space, or even an addition to your ground floor. Maximize this space by installing a DrySpace system, or consider covering your deck with a GacoDeck waterproof coating.

Will your deck be in the sun or the shade? 

  • No Shade: If your deck doesn't get any shade, the walking surface is going to get hot in the sunlight. Consider a light-colored decking surface, check out a heat-reflective product like CoolDeck, or simply remember that a dark brown color is going to absorb more heat than a lighter color. Temporary awnings or umbrellas can provide some shade in the hottest months of the year. 
  • Mixed Sun and Shade: An area of mixed sun and shade may be the optimal location for a deck if you have that option.
  • Mostly Shade: A deck that is mostly shaded will likely encounter prolonged moisture—which may mean the growth of moss and such, and require more frequent cleaning. Consider easy-to-clean deck boards made of PVC, or capped composite on a shaded deck.

How often do you want to maintain your deck?

All decks require some level of maintenance. The frequency and cleaning process can vary greatly depending on the decking surface you choose. How often do you do yard work, and is it something you enjoy? If you perform an outdoor cleaning on an infrequent basis, you'll likely want to go for an easy-to-maintain decking option. If you like to work outside nearly every weekend, there are some beautiful decking options which benefit from frequent care. We'll cover maintenance later in this series.

How long will you be in your home?

Deck surfaces vary significantly in cost, and although any deck can last for a very long time if well cared for—some options are more naturally long-lasting than others.

Cedar decking is naturally resistant to rot, but still must be maintained to avoid UV degradation (graying) and to prolong the life of the wood. Some lumber—such as ipe, bamboo, or Kebony—are very long-lasting choices which can also be low maintenance if you're content to let them weather to a natural color as they bleach in the sunlight. 

PVC and capped-composite decking will last more than 25 years by simply keeping up on the required cleaning.

Will you need a building permit?

You definitely don't want to spend a lot of time building your deck—just to find out a permit was required from the beginning!

Depending on where you live, the height of your deck surface (assuming you're building on a level lot) will trigger the need for a building permit and compliance with the setback requirements of your property. For the Greater Seattle area, these are:

  • 18” in the city of Seattle
  • 30” in most other jurisdiction

Two really important things to address (whether you obtain a building permit or not) are:

  • Proper attachment of the deck ledger to the home (If building an attached deck)
  • Proper attachment of the railing/guardrail posts to the framework of your deck

These two items are critical to providing a safe environment for those who will be enjoying your outdoor living space with you.

The easiest way to find out what's required is to contact your local building department (you can easily find their website by doing a web search for your county and "building department," but we've included links to a few local ones below). They'll let you know if you need a permit, what type is required, how to submit it, and any fees associated with the permit process.

  • Click here for the King County Building Department website.
  • Click here for the Snohomish County Building Department website.
  • Click here for the Pierce County Building Department website.

Obtaining a permit ensures decks and other structures are built correctly—for everyone's safety. If you ever sell your home, permit documentation is very important, and provides proof that renovations were done correctly. A homeowner is required by law to disclose any work done on a home without permits.

Is the cost of a deck within my budget?

Even if you’re planning on building the deck yourself, it’s important to know how much it’s going to cost. Decking and railing products are an investment that can add up quickly depending on your choices. Making a plan will help you determine the size, scope, and material choices for your deck. Completing the planning worksheet below will help you figure out how much money to budget for your new deck.

Dunn Lumber Deck Planning Worksheet

Bring the completed worksheet in to your local Dunn Lumber. One of our team members will be happy to help you find the right decking options for your home.

Visit Your Local Dunn Lumber Decking Showroom

This series walks through the process of planning, building, and maintaining your deck, to help get your outdoor living space ready for the gorgeous summer weather we have here in the Pacific Northwest. Stay tuned for more tips and resources to help make your next decking project a success.